A letter to my daughter about fighting back

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Photo via Kveller.
I was absolutely struck by this recent piece by Sarah Tuttle-Singer about teaching our children to fight back — within reason. It’s all too easy to get caught up in the rules of parent and personhood: be nice. Try again. Make friends. Share.

Sometimes, even though those rules are still very important, being nice isn’t the appropriate response:

I watch your eyes glow when the kids in preschool want to play with you. I see how it matters to you what they say and how they smile.

I watch your bottom lip tremble when someone hurts your feelings.

And I watch you on the playground — your face flushed, and your breath staggered as you chase the child that was mean to you. I know you, and I know you are blaming yourself for their bad behavior.

I know you are trying to get a second chance at friendships not worth having.

You are so much like me that it takes my breath away.

Please. Don’t be this way.

Don’t be dependent on how others treat you. You are strong, and brave, and wonderful, and kind.

Stand up for yourself.

Fight back if you have to.

I learned all of this by living it. And I don’t want you to learn like this, because while I was lucky enough to walk away with my two legs and my body intact, we shouldn’t tempt fate.

I didn’t plan on telling you this. But I see how similar we are — I see your softness, your kindness. I see how you forgive so easily — too easily — when someone is mean to you.

Head over to Kveller to read the rest.

Comments on A letter to my daughter about fighting back

  1. I read this post when it originally came out on Kveller, and I’m so glad you guys picked it up! LOVE Kveller, and Sarah Tuttle Singer is a genius.

  2. I cannot say how it is great to read this. Bad things happened to me, the same kind of things as Sarah and I am here, with my four month old daughter in my arms, asking myself how I will teach her to fight back when needed, without I hope, loosing faith in humanity. This post gives me a lot to think about, Thank you!

  3. I am thinking about these things a lot lately, also, and have been reading Becky Bailey’s work on conscious discipline. It helps us focus on our own patterns so we can teach our children to be assertive, kind, and strong.

  4. This is such a wonderful piece. I have a close friend whose daughter is 9 and is having such a rough time in 4th grade because she too takes all the blame for others behaving badly onto herself. There have been so many conversations about this little girl and what we can do to help her understand that sometimes, she isn’t the problem and that, some kids are just plain mean. Balancing understanding another’s point of view–even if you don’t agree–and standing up for yourself is hard. Teaching it is so much harder.

  5. My father had to take my little sister out of school for a bullying problem that got out of control. When she finally stood up for herself (“I can get my birthmark removed, too bad you can’t get surgery for douchebag.” Go little sis!), it turned physical, and my little sister kicked ass.

    And when they called my dad in, they thought for sure he’d lay down the law. He did. He told the principal, “if my daughter is physically assaulted, on school property or anywhere, she has a right to defend herself with force. If you intend to allow her to get beat up, with the only alternative being expulsion, consider her withdrawn.”

    No wonder I turned out so fucking cool.

    • At my daughter’s school they get expelled for being in a fight even if they do nothing. Someone punches someone else and they both get in trouble, regardless of whether they fought back.
      My daughter knows she won’t get in trouble for fighting back.

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